5 Jazz Teams To Watch At NDA Collegiate Nationals 2016

2016-3-20 NDA OPEN TEAMS GRAPHIC

Following up some crazy traffic on my 5 Teams Performance Teams to Watch at NDA Collegiate Nationals 2016 post with one about the jazz division (formerly open division).

I feel like it’s kind of redundant to chat about how much I love NDA collegiate nationals in this post, too, especially because I really want you to click on that little link above where I already talk about it once.

Instead, I’ll just say this – it’s nearly impossible to decide the jazz teams I’m most excited to see. There is seriously so much talent at NDA, and a treat in every single division. I think it’s really important for you all to know how damn hard it is to narrow this all down, but here’s my best shot:

Stephen F. Austin State University

These stunnas were in Challenge Cup last year and I remember being just so confused. They were flawless; what were they doing in Challenge Cup? Then I quickly realized they got a safety deduction (I’m guessing because they held flowers in their hands during a team side aerial? Someone can fill me in on that), which made perfect sense because, like I said, they did a damn team side aerial.

Anyways, they ended up in third against two very, very, very talented teams. Even though I think SFADT definitely deserved their third place finish, no routine made me cry like theirs, and moving an audience is the real win here. Huge tip of the hat to them.

West Virginia University

I feel like WVU is kind of the soul sister to Assumption because they, too, have had some struggles at NDA. Of course they totally ran the show in 2010 and 2011 when they brought home titles, and even killed it in 2012 and 2013. But they did go through some coaching changeovers that were tough (just like Assumption), and didn’t have the most spectacular finish in 2014 (and Assumption didn’t even get to go that year). I’m probably just drawing the parallels because I really wish I was a WVU dancer.

But anyways, in 2015? Shit. That routine was beautiful. I hope they pull something even better off this year because to me, WVU will always be that 2011 team that killed me when they put that damn scarf in their mouths.

Grand Valley State University

Competing against the best is fun, which is one of the main reasons why I love Grand Valley. With Assumption, I’ve had the honor of going toe-to-toe with this team (and let’s be real, it was only a real competition back in 2013 when Assumption was still am actual NDA force) and seeing what they can deliver has always been humbling.

I’m going to be 100 percent honest, I think I wanted Grand Valley to get its win last year on principle alone, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t completely deserve it. Their routine was stunning. They are hard workers. They are humble. I hope they keep all of that up this year to deliver another amazing and honorable performance next week.

James Madison University & Utah Valley University

I remember sitting in the Ocean Center during finals last year and pretty much everyone on Assumption was like, “yup, it really doesn’t matter whether JMU or Utah Valley wins. They were both flawless.” Because I was totally torn on which I thought should win more last year, I’m still torn about who I’m more excited to see this year (remember up top where I said narrowing this down to five teams is hard?)

Brigham Young University

Because duuuuuuuuuuh. It’s probably so dance team basic of me to fawn over BYU so much, but I feel like if you’re not obsessed with them you’re just being bitter or denying a killer team of the respect they deserve.

If I’m going to boil down the thing I’m most excited for, though, it’s that damn team side aerial. A few years ago this team blew our minds apart by throwing a casual one in there. Then a bunch of other teams started doing it like, oh, like it’s hard or something? So BYU responded by doing the most beautiful aerial sequence in cannon, showing off skill and artistry all at the same time. What are they going to do this year to up the ante? I know I’m chomping at the bit to see.

A little PS note: Thanks so much for the support everyone’s shown this ‘lil blog the past few days. Every view, like, comment, share, and tweet has made my jaw hit the ground. Nothing makes you feel luckier than seeing things unfold doing the very thing you love. I hope you all have as much fun with this as I do, because seriously, these dance team national lists are my favorite blog posts all year.

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Wrangling the fear of graduation (there will be other joys, too.)

For the past day or so, I’ve been trying to scrounge together the words to part ways with my college dance team. In a way, saying bye to them and all of the experiences I’ve had with them is like saying bye to the entire college package; they were my first friends, and are certainly the best ones I’ve found in these wild, wild four years.

This past week we competed at NDA Collegiate Nationals in Daytona Beach, Florida, and despite the handful of practices we’re still going to run in these last fleeting weeks until I graduate, I can’t help but feel an aching sadness that things are coming to an end; things aren’t really going to be the same anymore.

But then today, when I returned to classes missed for my attendance at the competition, a feeling of closure fell over me like a cloud of grace.

My poetry professor, bless him, asked me how things went down at the competition. I smiled and thanked him for asking and told him that we ended in the middle of the pack; not our best showing at nationals, for damn sure, but still an experience that fills our hearts with gratitude. He smiled back.

“It must be so sad,” he said to me. “I know how much joy being on that team brings to you.”

I remembered my first class with him, back when I was small and a second-year student, when I handed in my first assignment about a specific day in my life. I chose to write about the breathless moments on stage with the dance team a few months prior, when we danced like champions and came home like some, too.

He really did know how much joy it brought me.

But there are going to be other joys, too,” he finished.

And suddenly I pieced things together; with humble and thankful fingers, I found not just the words about saying goodbye to my team, my first college friends, but words about saying goodbye to the last four years. To my identity as a student. To whatever river I’ve been coasting down for my whole life.

It’s frighteningly easy to fall into the fear of the future. I don’t have a job. I’m going to be living in my parent’s house (even though that’s a totally okay thing to do!). I don’t have any clue what I’m capable of, and I’m petrified that it’s nothing. I look at these joys that my time in college has brought me, and I want to white-knuckle cling to them.

But there will be other joys, too, and I want to do the challenging thing and face them with excitement and fearlessness.

I might be jobless right now, but there will be the joy of finding something to do and finding a spot in this busy, busy universe. I might be leaving the dimpling laughter of college friendships, but there will be joys of new friends and new relationships that will keep my hands light and full and good. There will be joys of knowing that the earth is spinning beneath my feet right now, and that if I keep sending love out there, it’s going to come back to me.

I can’t keep my feet planted in this place for too long. I’ve sucked it dry of all the nutrients, all of the love and peace, joy and lust for life that it’s given me, and I’m going to starve if I keep trying to feed myself here. I need to trust that every warm and loving vibe that I throw out into this world is going to come back to me some day. And I think now I’m starting to trust that there are going to be joys, bigger and smaller, coming my way; there will be other joys, too.

5 Teams to Watch At UDA Nationals 2015

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GUYS GUYS GUYS. We’re only a few days away from Universal Dance Association Collegiate Nationals in Orlando, Florida! Even though my team doesn’t attend these nationals (we do NDA in Daytona! See my post here for more about my team and nationals,) we get so freaking excited every year to tune in and watch some of the incredible teams who compete at UDA. UDA Nationals always start the weekend that my team moves in early to start our Daytona Season training, and it’s a great way for our team to bond and get really excited for our own road ahead.

There are always some amazing teams at UDA that literally blow our minds apart. UDA tends to be a little bit more about technique, where NDA does a little bit more with overall performance and spirit/tradition of the teams; both competitions have fierce ccompetitors. Here’s my list of the top 5 teams to be on the lookout for this season.

1. The University of Nevada Las Vegas Division IA Hip Hop, IA Pom

How did they not win last year? How, how, hooooow? Don’t get me wrong, Cincinnati was amazing, and nobody can take that away from them, but jeez, UNLV is like where God sends His Son to learn hip hop because they are just the gold standard. I can’t wait to see what they do this year because, dang, I’m rooting for this team. Here’s their game from 2013:

2. The University of Tennessee Division IA Jazz, IA Hip Hop

Tennessee has the distinct honor of performing my favorite dance team routine Of. All. Time. It was back in 2009 and they did half the routine to the Vitamin String Quartet version of “Iris” by the GooGoo Dolls, and just at the build, they had a group holding an almost 180 degree ponche and then they hit their peak as the music switched to that point of the song in the GooGoo Dolls version. It was amazing. So many dance teams do this now, but Tennessee was definitely the first. Last year they got second in IA jazz and sixth in IA hip hop. Hip hop is rad, but I’m really waiting to see what they do in jazz. Tennessee will always have a special place in my heart. Take a look at their Home Camp routine from this past summer:

3. The College of St. Benedict Open Jazz, Open Pom

The College of St. Benedict, although only coming in fifth place in 2014, is always a team I’m super amped to watch. Dancing one of the most breath-taking routines back in 2013 to an a capella version of “The Climb,” this team has had my support ever since. Don’t get me wrong– University of St. Thomas is so technical and Lindenwood is also unreal, but St. Benedict will always have a warm place in my heart after that routine. And their pom?! Jeez Louise. So great. No words. Obsessed. Here’s last year’s pom:

4. Cal. State Fullerton Division I Jazz Division I Pom

These girls are wild. They have so much energy. Last year (2014) was the first year they did pom, and they rocked it out getting second. The weakness that I saw was that their power level dropped more by the end of their (super long) routine, while winners North Dakota State didn’t have that much of a decline. I think that Cal State Fullerton started out stronger, but that meant that they had further to drop. This year they definitely have a good chance of stealing the title from defending champs North Dakota State in pom. For jazz… Oh jeeze. This team has always been incredible. Their 2013 routine to “I Surrender” by Celine Dion was crazy. Last year’s was stunning, too. There’s a reason why they have two national championships in jazz under their belts. Can someone please tell me how a team manages to do two incredible routines at nationals?! And do football and basketball games? Because to me that’s crazy. Take a gander at their national title-holding jazz routine from 2014:

5. The University of Minnesota Division IA Jazz, IA Pom

Because, honestly, if you aren’t obsessed with Minnesota, you have something wrong with you. THESE GIRLS ARE ROBOTS I SWEAR. They have unbelievable technique, probably an infinite money pool to work from (all of their jazz routines are done by Carl Mundt, I believe [forgive me if I’m wrong], and he does not come cheap,) and those girls are so freakin’ passionate. No matter what, each year I’m dying to know what they’re going to pull out of their sleeves.

Honorable Mentions:

I mean of course I’m going to watch everyone– am I the only one who feels like there aren’t enough dances to watch at UDA Nationals? Thank God the NDTC is held only two weeks later and I can get my fill with amazing high school dancers (preview for that post: The only team that is relevant is Westmoore. I guess sometimes Coral Reef.) Here are some other teams to really keep your eye out for:

Bridgewater State University– Open Jazz (Gotta give them a shoutout because their coach is an ACDT alum! Go Cassie!!)

Westfield State University– Open Hip Hop (one of their seniors is a North Andover School of Dance alum!)

Arizona State University– IA Jazz, IA Hip Hop

Louisiana State University Tiger Girls– IA Jazz, IA Hip Hop

Hofstra University– I Jazz, I Hip Hop